Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. The NHS is not a creaking relic, whatever the Tories may say (Daily Telegraph)

The NHS is being asked to do too much with too few staff – but Andy Burnham might just have a cure, says Mary Riddell.

2. It's crunch time on Trident for Miliband and his party (Guardian)

Labour's leader can break with Blairite and Tory nuclear business as usual – and show some real statesmanship, writes Nick Harvey.

3. Lynton Crosby and the myth of neutrality (Financial Times)

Those who exert power in a democracy should be accountable, writes John McDermott.

4. Arab Spring? No, more of a temper tantrum (Times)

These uprisings are mostly incoherent protests by young people, writes Daniel Finkelstein. Only when they are older will democracy thrive.

5. The day Labour lost the moral high ground on the NHS (Daily Mail)

The Tories needn't be intimidated by Labour's 'record' on health care, says Simon Heffer.

6. The Egyptian coup is a warning to Turkey – but will Erdoğan listen? (Guardian)

Like the Muslim Brotherhood, Erdoğan's AK party has alienated opponents, writes James E Baldwin. Ennahda in Tunisia shows a way forward for democratic Islamists.

7. Can Crosby cross the line? (Daily Telegraph)

Campaign strategist Lynton Crosby has revived Conservative Party fortunes, but can he win them the general election, asks Iain Martin.

8. The Keogh report: Don’t judge the NHS by its failures (Independent)

With so much fur flying, the substantive issue risks being obscured, says an Independent editorial.

9. Globalisation in a time of transition (Financial Times)

Trade remains vulnerable to problems such as financial crises and inequality, says Martin Wolf.

10. Bernanke makes markets twitch but what counts is the economy (Independent)

Higher interest rates will be a signal the economy is healing, writes Hamish McRae.

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Theresa May's "clean Brexit" is hard Brexit with better PR

The Prime Minister's objectives point to the hardest of exits from the European Union. 

Theresa May will outline her approach to Britain’s Brexit deal in a much-hyped speech later today, with a 12-point plan for Brexit.

The headlines: her vow that Britain will not be “half in, half out” and border control will come before our membership of the single market.

And the PM will unveil a new flavour of Brexit: not hard, not soft, but “clean” aka hard but with better PR.

“Britain's clean break from EU” is the i’s splash, “My 12-point plan for Brexit” is the Telegraph’s, “We Will Get Clean Break From EU” cheers the Express, “Theresa’s New Free Britain” roars the Mail, “May: We’ll Go It Alone With CLEAN Brexit” is the Metro’s take. The Guardian goes for the somewhat more subdued “May rules out UK staying in single market” as their splash while the Sun opts for “Great Brexpectations”.

You might, at this point, be grappling with a sense of déjà vu. May’s new approach to the Brexit talks is pretty much what you’d expect from what she’s said since getting the keys to Downing Street, as I wrote back in October. Neither of her stated red lines, on border control or freeing British law from the European Court of Justice, can be met without taking Britain out of the single market aka a hard Brexit in old money.

What is new is the language on the customs union, the only area where May has actually been sparing on detail. The speech will make it clear that after Brexit, Britain will want to strike its own trade deals, which means that either an unlikely exemption will be carved out, or, more likely, that the United Kingdom will be out of the European Union, the single market and the customs union.

(As an aside, another good steer about the customs union can be found in today’s row between Boris Johnson and the other foreign ministers of the EU27. He is under fire for vetoing an EU statement in support of a two-state solution, reputedly to curry favour with Donald Trump. It would be strange if Downing Street was shredding decades of British policy on the Middle East to appease the President-Elect if we weren’t going to leave the customs union in order at the end of it.)

But what really matters isn’t what May says today but what happens around Europe over the next few months. Donald Trump’s attacks on the EU and Nato yesterday will increase the incentive on the part of the EU27 to put securing the political project front-and-centre in the Brexit talks, making a good deal for Britain significantly less likely.

Add that to the unforced errors on the part of the British government, like Amber Rudd’s wheeze to compile lists of foreign workers, and the diplomatic situation is not what you would wish to secure the best Brexit deal, to put it mildly.

Clean Brexit? Nah. It’s going to get messy. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.